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Thanksgiving dinner: Community feast helps warm hearts

From left, volunteers Sharon Hoverson, Josh Hoverson, Sara Hoverson and Wil Hart serve food at the 29th annual Thanksgiving community dinner on Thursday at Calvary Lutheran Church in Bemidji. Pioneer Photo/Anne Williams

This Thanksgiving, hundreds of people from the community received a warm meal served with a glass of milk and a piece of pumpkin pie, along with live holiday music, friendly camaraderie and best of all, no dishes to wash afterwards.

The 29th annual community dinner took place from 12-1:30 p.m. on Thursday at Calvary Lutheran Church.

Thanksgiving community dinner coordinator Kelly Speck said this was her first time coordinating the holiday meal. Planning a lunch for around 700 was at first, a little nerve wrecking, she said.

"I organize the Wednesday night meals at Calvary Lutheran Church, so I kind of knew what I had to do," Speck said.

Her mother, Bonnie Jevning, helped her organize the event.

"I had never volunteered before," Jevning said. "When I found out the dinner was planned at our church, it was pulling on my heart strings to do something.

When Speck was asked to coordinate the event, Jevning told her daughter, "Hey - we can do this together."

Over 50 volunteers from the community participated in the dinner. Volunteers spent many hours on Wednesday preparing 250 take-out meals to be handed out before noon on Thursday.

According to Speck, she anticipated serving around 700 meals this year. The food was provided by donations from the community and local businesses.

"It feels really good to help out in this way. It's wonderful," Speck said.

A line of volunteers served turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn, cranberries, coleslaw and pumpkin pie onto plates at the dinner. Placemats were designed from students at Horace May Elementary School.

"I see how grateful people are to have a place to go to," said Tim Hugley, a diner from Nymore. "It's a good way to give back to the community. All of the servers have been really nice."